Writing the City

Writing the City The Arts House National Arts Council spacer British Council

The Light
By cheongcheong173

About this piece
A clip on TV that showed a young Lee Hsien Loong during a press conference gave rise to this.

The Light that is invisible to human eyes flashes intermittently, scanning for those who should cross over to the Other Side. The fishes and other sea creatures continue with their activities, pausing uneasily every now and then; even though their mortal eyes also could not see the Light.

I cower, crouching close to Her.

When I first became aware, I was already immersed in liquid. But that was a different kind of liquid – much less salty and untainted by the sharp stink of petrol. The light was also different. It used to be a soft warm glow, diffused by barriers that obscured my view but allowing the light to filter through, so unlike the naked glare that pierces through this liquid and hurts my eyes.

It was a good time then, even though I didn’t realise it. I felt safe, protected. I didn’t have much to do; I spent my time sleeping to the lullaby of the Drum, listening out for Her voice as well as the other voices and sounds that filtered through to my sanctuary, like the light. The other voices were never as clear as Hers, but I could recognise some, like the Low Voice that I heard most apart from Hers. That was also a voice that put me at ease. But I never hear it anymore.

The Incident came swift and sudden. I realise now that Her voice was a little higher that day, and the drumbeat which changed pace according to Her moods was a tad faster. It must have been a special day.

A sudden forceful lurch slammed me into the soft wall surrounding me. The impact so great I felt an alien sharp sensation that made me feel ill. I know now the name for that sensation – pain. At the same time, there was a scream – Her scream – so loud that my ears rang.

Then my heart seemed to fly into my throat and for an eternal moment, I felt like I was suspended in air. Eternity ended with a bone-crunching jolt and a pain that was not mine and yet mine tore through me, flinging me into abrupt oblivion.

When I regained consciousness, everything was wrong. The liquid felt, tasted and smelled different. Most importantly, the drumbeat that had been a constant and but reassuring part of my life was gone. It left in its wake a deafening silence.

There was something more…

She was gone.

No. Not quite. She is still near me, but something in our relationship has changed. She is nearby, Her protective presence a comfort, but there is now a distance between us that was absent before.

There were eight of us from The Incident. There was shock and denial at first. After that came anger and grief, and also relief for those whose loved ones had survived.

‘At least J— survived,’ the old lady said to her son.

‘I hope my wife sues the damned cable car company,’ the American said.

She remains silent. She would hover around me – we cannot touch – and I feel a yearning in her.

Over the years, the Light got most of us. Some left willingly, some were taken by force. Until only She and I remain.

As the Light flashes, we hide in the usual place – amidst a dead coral colony. Without warning, a force yanks my finger and pulls me out of my hiding place. My yell alerts Her and I feel Her distress as I am being pulled increasingly away from Her.

Resistance has always been futile. Before long, I am squarely in the glare of the light. She hovers around helplessly, wanting to help but unable to do anything. Then I hear something coming from the Light.

The Low Voice. The words the Low Voice utters are inaudible but it doesn’t matter for they fill me with a peace that I last felt before The Incident. She and I stop fighting the Light. After thirty-three years, our family is whole

March 31, 2014

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